A friend of mine shared this story: She read in a book by a Waldorf early years teacher that whenever the children starting getting too wild or disruptive, the teacher slowly and methodically went about putting the room back together. Folding silks, placing dolls in their cradle, stacking bowls in the kitchen. And the children magically settled, finding their center once again. My friend said that when she read this, she realized that it perfectly described her own state of being–when the house is a mess, she feels impatient and irritable. When it has come back together again, she feels peaceful and easy. I couldn’t agree more!
But where is the Waldorf kindergarten teacher coming to my rescue? Why, up on the fridge in a rainbow colored chart, of course.
That’s right, a housekeeping schedule. For a long time, I was consumed with just the basic daily maintenance of our home: dishes three times a day, sweeping, laundry, tidying up the detritus of an active family. I still do those things day in and day out, but each day there is a little something extra that I focus on.
Monday is kitchen day. Aside from giving extra attention to things that pile up during the week, I set the timer for ten minutes and do a single task like clean the fridge or organize a cupboard. Sometimes I mop, or deal with the mess under the sink.
Tuesday is for the living room and entry way. The special focus of this day is “dust and declutter.” I rove around the house with a wet rag and a box, doing just that. I straighten the bookshelves, tame my knitting baskets, put the cds back into orderly piles. Sometimes I sort the hat bags, sometimes I sweep down the cobwebs.
Wednesday is bedrooms. Usually one needs more attention than the other, so it gets it. More dusting and decluttering, sweeping the rugs, changing the sheets, putting away any clothes that have been piling up (and getting rid of the excess).
Thursday we do the bathrooms. Sinks, toilet, tubs, mop the floor with a wet rag, mirrors, wash towels. This has been majorly helped by having a spray bottle of vinegar solution and box of baking soda in each bathroom. Duh! I use old cloth diapers for washing everything down with.
Friday is “studio” day. That would be our huge desk on the north wall of our main living space. I enter receipts into our budget, pay bills, tidy and declutter the mess, straighten the bookshelves and the disaster brewing down below where my fabric and sewing gear is stowed.
Over the weekend we do some version of a home blessing–vacuum, empty trash, do what was forgotten during the week, and often some bigger organizational work that involves everybody. Or sometimes we just let things go, secure in the knowledge that it’s gonna get done soon enough.
:: I work fast and try to get the daily chore done by ten. If it’s not in the stars, it’ll happen for sure next week.
::My three year old helps me work while sister takes her morning nap.
::I love this routine because it tells me when to stop. If it’s time for the park, I stop myself.
::People before things. I am getting better and better at remembering this, at letting the house be messy and not falling apart myself. Strange to actually be embracing disorder, but sometimes that’s how we choose joy.
::Simplicity and de-cluttering are my secret weapons. If I am grumbling over picking up the same toys all the time, I simply move them out of our home or into storage. If my bookshelves are bursting and unsightly, if there are too many cups to wash, if the pen cup is stuffed so full it’s impossible to get a pen in or out–get them outta here!
Our house is not super clean, ever. It is a lively, creative space, with lots happening. Every day, though, we give extra attention to at least one part of it, and this makes the whole place feel loved. It is such a balancing act–embracing the abundant messes of family life, knowing how much to let slide, and when to get things back on track. It is an ongoing evolution–one of growing children, parents, and the space that contains us and our days together.